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Precarity and parenthood: why Eurodoc endorses Mothers in Science

In Eurodoc we want to acknowledge all of the many amazing Early Career Researchers (ECRs) who manage to balance a research career while also being a parent or caregiver - so in celebration of Mothers’ Day, Eurodoc today endorses the Mothers In Science call for action 2023 [1] 

Mothers In Science is an organisation that works towards supporting mothers (and fathers) who are working in the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) fields. They aim at raising awareness of the biases and barriers that parents and caregivers in STEMM experiences and advocate for workplace equality in STEMM.

In Eurodoc we can only agree with this, and we find the lack of diversity that these barriers ultimately entail problematic. We all lose when research and researchers are not as diverse as they could and should be [2]. This holds true not only in STEMM, but also in the Humanities and Social Sciences as well.

However, research shows that there are systemic barriers related to parenthood when it comes to advancing one's academic career [3,4,5,6,7], and thus it is not surprising that in a survey carried out by ADI, the Italian Member organisation of Eurodoc, one of the main reasons reported by doctoral candidates for not starting families was their fear that they will lose productivity and damage their career possibilities.  

That mothers face barriers when trying to advance in their career is not a problem that is unique to academia. However, what makes the situation of ECRs that are parents or caregivers more vulnerable compared to other careers, is of course that the academic career path is so precarious, and precarity is harder to afford if you have children. Making academia more equal for people with children requires that this precariousness is addressed. Which is why Eurodoc advocates that:

  • employ early-career researchers and ensure that they are entitled to financed parental leave and that their temporary contracts are extended;
  • ensure that early-career researchers have the right to stay home on the same conditions as fully employed academics, when their children are sick, and that the work culture in academia does not prevent them from doing so. 
  • Higher-education institutions, research-performing organisations and research funders should monitor  the effectiveness of the family-friendly policies they have in place, and provide policies in place where there is none; 
  • Research assessment should support diversity in academia, particularly reducing the overemphasis on competition and prestige [8].

So to celebrate Mother's Day this year, we recommend that you as well as sending flowers to your mom also endorse Mothers In Science, and start advocating for better recognition and working conditions for those that choose to be parents or caregivers. Read Mothers’ in Science action plan, and if you know of other examples of good practises than those on their list, please share them!  



[1]: Eurodoc Endorses the Mothers-in-Science Action Plan
[2]: Gender equality in science, medicine, and global health: where are we at and why does it matter?
[3]: Legislating for equality? Working hours and progression in science careers
[4]: Family or Future in the Academy?
[5]: Early Career Researchers’ Experiences of Post-Maternity and Parental Leave Provision in UK Politics and International Studies Departments: A Heads of Department and Early Career Researcher Survey
[6]: Scientists Want More Children
[7]: Un/making academia: gendered precarities and personal lives in universities
[8]: Advancing science or advancing careers? Researchers’ opinions on success indicators.